Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Yummy White Bean Dip

I always seem to experiment on food when I have people come over or when I need to take a dish somewhere. I know you're not supposed to do that but I love trying new things. Yesterday I had some ladies over to do Pysanky and I served my White Bean Dip with pita chips, Kalamata olives, and cherry tomatoes. It was so yummy! Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of the dip but the recipe is so easy and so good I just had to share it!

Nat's White Bean Dip

2 cans Great Northern Beans (drained and rinsed well)
2 - 3 tablespoons minced onion
1 - 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced
olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
vegetable broth
salt
pepper

In a small skillet saute the onion in a fair amount of olive oil. When the onions get soft add the garlic and rosemary. Saute just long enough to get it all warm and the aroma coming out of the pan nicely. Pour the entire contents of the skillet into a bowl of the drained beans. Add the Dijon, a splash of veggie broth and the salt and pepper to taste. With an emulsion blender blend the ingredients until they become a nice, slightly thick, dipping consistency.

I did manage to pull myself away from the dip long enough to create these!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Weekly Menu (April 6 - April 12)

It's been a busy week, and it's going to be busy next week too. I have a love/hate relationship with this menu writing stuff. I know I can't function without it, no matter how hard it is to accomplish, so I suffer through it as best I can. This week's menu is a bit disappointing to me. Most of the time the rule of thumb in this house is to cook good healthy meals, and not use processed "food". Knowing how busy next week will be, and the fact that my husband and I will continue to have conflicting schedules (he's in theater), I threw this menu together. I'm not proud of it, but it will get us through the week and keep us out of restaurants. If you have super fast and easy homemade dishes you use in a pinch, share it, I'd love to have more ideas for weeks like these.

Saturday - Pasta (homemade, one with meat sauce the other without meat) and salad
Sunday - leftovers
Monday - White Turkey Chili for the boys; roasted veggies for me with salad
Tuesday - leftovers
Wednesday - Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with soup for the boys; Lentil and rice salad for me.
Thursday - Frozen pizza and salad for the boys; homemade veggie and bean soup for me.
Friday - Fried shrimp (yes, the frozen kind) and veggies

One last thought on trying to make most of our food. I went about $10 over my grocery budget this week in part because of the frozen, packaged and processed foods.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Weekly Menu (March 30 - April 5th)

Isn't it amazing how well thought out plans are easily swept away? That's exactly what happened to my weekly menu last week. It started out a little rocky because we forgot to check to see if we had charcoal for the grill. My husband loves to grill pork chops. Well, he didn't have enough, and we almost succumbed and picked up food at a restaurant. He came up with a great idea to broil the pork chops instead. It's so good to be part of a team. (Remind me of that statement in a bit.)
The next issue occurred because I pulled the wrong chicken out of the freezer to defrost. It was supposed to be the BBQ pulled chicken but instead was salsa shredded chicken. The mistake happened because I am not in the habit of labeling the containers before putting them into the freezer. I always think I'll remember what each one is. Then one day I came to my senses. I mean come on, I can't even remember what I did yesterday! I labeled each of the containers already in the freezer. Well, it seems I mislabeled one of the containers. Actually, I mislabeled two of the containers. Not really sure if we'll find more surprise meals or not. Anyway, the salsa shredded chicken makes a great taco filling but unfortunately my husband really doesn't like it. I always thought his opinion was that it was "okay", but apparently in his opinion it's terrible because he refused to eat it. (This is where you're supposed to remind me that it's great to be part of a team.) 
The train never really got back on the tracks, with my dear hubby pulling a beef stew out of the freezer to eat instead of the BBQ Chicken I had already pulled out, to me pulling out what I thought was pasta sauce with no meat but actually had sausage in it....it's best to just start all over again.

So here is next week's menu, wish us luck!
Saturday - BBQ chicken sandwich and homemade vinegar based cole slaw. Note: yes, I'm trying again to have my husband eat this! It's already out of the freezer, and I hate wasting food. Also, I'll have the cole slaw on a fried shrimp taco. (During Great Lent we are allowed shellfish.)
Sunday - left overs
Monday - Chicken Alfredo for the boys, homemade vegan potato soup for me. Note: The Alfredo is a carry over from last week because we never got to it.
Tuesday - left overs
Wednesday - Creole Chicken and Rice for the boys, Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions for me. Note: again, we never got to the Creole Chicken dish. Makes for a great shopping bill!
Thursday - left overs
Friday - Steak and potatoes for the boys, left overs for me. I can actually turn any left over lentil and rice into a salad by adding dried cranberries, walnuts, parsley, green onion and a little red wine vinegar and oil.

I always have salad and salad fixings available and ready to go in our fridge. The salad can be added to any dinner or used as lunch. I also have homemade soups in the freezer which make nice lunches. Fruit is also in our house all the time, so again we have it with lunches or dinners.

I hope you find inspiration in the menu and if you are ever curious about a particular dish let me know and I'll post the recipe.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Color and Architecture

My recent business trip to Europe continues to inspire me. One thing that struck me is that the Europeans are not afraid of color on their buildings or doors.
This is in Altstadt, or Old Town, in Dusseldorf, Germany. Isn't this Pantone's declared "color of the year"?

Look at that amazing door!
On the train ride from Germany into France there were many homes in small towns that were pink. It was so great to see and so cheerful, especially since it was overcast much of the time I was there.

In Paris the doors were also full of detail and in great colors!
The doors are so tall that it's difficult to get close and capture the entire thing.

It just keeps going and going, up! Look at that deep, rich color!
And here is a optimistically painted sweet shop, also in Paris.
I love the touches of pink along with the golden yellow.
For me, these pictures show how important color can be. Each of these were taken on overcast and very cold days, and the color seems to invite you and warms you, in what would otherwise be a very drab and dreary day.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Weekly Menus (March 23 - March 29)

First an update on how we did last week. Fava Beans are mocking me. I have tried two weeks in a row now to purchase the illusive legumes. No dice! The first time I thought that I might find them at my supermarket since they purchase produce from Texas farmers when they can. Nope. Last week I drove to the Boggy Creek Farm in East Austin. Nada. Well, they were sold out for the day but the pesky things were laughing at me in the safety of their plant.
Stock growing on the outside garden row.

I love this place. I always feel inspired for what might be possible in my own backyard.

Looking out to the garden rows.

Strawberries! And to the left are some Fava bean bushes.
It's a beautiful farm, so it wasn't a fully wasted trip when I couldn't buy the Fava beans, cabbage, carrots, etc. I did buy a celeriac, or celery root. I have yet to use it tough. I've heard it's good in a salad.

On to this week's menu:
Saturday - Pork Chops for the boys along with Thai Noodle Salad as a side for them and a main dish for me. Our left overs lasted a bit longer than expected, so this is a carry over from last week.
Sunday - Left overs (woohoo!)
Monday - BBQ Chicken sandwiches for Hubby, Greek Salad as a side for him and as a main dish for me and my son. The chicken for this dish is left over shredded chicken that I cooked in the crock pot a few weeks ago and frozen the rest for later.
Tuesday - Left overs!
Wednesday - Alfredo pasta with chicken for the boys, little vegan pizzas for me, and salad for all. The chicken going into the Alfredo is left over shredded roasted chicken from another meal weeks ago that I froze.
Thursday - Left overs!
Friday - Creole Chicken and Rice for my Hubby, left overs and salad for me and my son if he doesn't like the Creole dish.

I don't think I'll make it to a Farmer's Market this time. I'm a bit discouraged because the one in my neighborhood doesn't start until next month, and I just don't feel like driving to downtown Austin. On the bright side, this will be a budget friendly shopping day since the only meat I need to buy is the sausage that goes into the Creole Chicken and Rice dish.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Weekly Menus (March 16th to March 22nd)

So now the real work begins. Great Lent starts for Orthodox Christians on Monday, March 18th. This means no meat or dairy. This also means I'm still coming up with meals with meat for my husband and son who do not observe the fast.  I always try to come up with dishes that I can eat as lunches and dinner, as well as a possible side dish to the boys' meals. So here's my menu for the coming week.

Saturday - quesadillas, the boys will have it with chicken, I'll have it with black beans, onions, and bell pepper. These are left over ingredients from the flautas we had today (Friday).
Sunday - Roasted chicken and veggies (cabbage, carrots, and onions); I'll have the veggies and salad
Monday - left overs
Tuesday - Stew for the boys
Wednesday - left overs
Thursday - Pork Chops and Thai Noodle Salad (might add edamame for more protein for me)
Friday - left overs (I adore left overs if you couldn't tell! Less cooking!)

I always take my lunch to work so I'll have the following:
-vegetarian chili that I made earlier this week and froze some of the servings
- Chimichurri avocado on toast
-Fava bean salad

The other thing that will make this more challenging is that I want to start buying most of my produce from the farmers markets and eating in season. Wow! Let's see how I do!

Update on how we did with last week's menu:
We had guests come stay with us so the chili didn't give us left overs. We ended up buying a pizza for the day we were supposed to have left overs. This reminds me that I should always have an easy backup ready. Not sure what that will be, but I will need to work it into my pantry soon! We're trying to stay on a tight budget and these types of mistakes do not help!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Love Lock Bridge

Paris is an amazing place to visit. I know, I just stated the obvious. I think this second trip to the city helped me to see and appreciate the contrasts within it. My first trip twelve years ago was really overwhelmingly focused on the historical. This most recent trip I saw the contemporary side living with the backdrop of history.
On one hand you have Notre Dame, which by the way is celebrating 850 years. Without looking at my art history books I would have said it was older than that. There were banners and a temporary grandstand set up in the square outside the front of the cathedral for all of the special events planned this year.
The contemporary part shows up basically in the Notre Dame's backyard on a bridge called Pont de l'Archeveche. Known in pop culture as the Love Lock bridge.
Both sides are completely covered in the tokens of lovers from all over the world. This article on Bonjour Paris has a great explanation of the bridge.
When the sun hits the metal you can see the gleam from several blocks away, drawing you to this pretty cool Paris street art.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Paris Street Art

I smiled when I saw these embellished signs in and around Paris last month. I love the imagination!
This is Too Long!

Off With His Head!

I'll Take This!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Weekly Menus (March 9th - March 15th)

I know it's a pain, but writing the menu for the week keeps me sane. Everyone is busy and with the time and effort used to plan and prepare, this family makes it through most weeks without an emergency I'm-too-tired-to-cook restaurant trip. That helps our budget and keeps us eating healthy!

Since this is such an tough task for me to tackle every Saturday, I thought I'd start sharing my weekly menu plans on this page. Maybe I'll be helping another menu writer to get out of their block, and maybe someone will inspire me when I have menu writer's block.

This week starts another tricky part for me in my planning. It's the start of Great Lent for Orthodox Christians and the diet is basically vegan. This week gets us prepared by eliminating meat first. The following week we then eliminate dairy. I'm the only one in my family that observes this tradition so I need to be creative and plan meals that include something for me to eat that is also a side dish for the rest of the family. So here we go....

Week of March 9th -March 15th:
Saturday - hamburgers with homemade mac n cheese (I'll be trying this recipe found on Pinterest)
Sunday - planned "eat out" day (last day to eat meat, we'll be trying the Noble Pig, woohoo!)
Monday - BBQ grilled chicken and cheese tortellini pasta salad (I'll be experimenting with the salad)
Tuesday - left overs
Wednesday - Chili (I'll also be making a vegetarian chili found on Pinterest)
Thursday - left overs
Friday - Flautas (I'll make some with chicken and some without)

Happy planning everyone!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Things I Love - III

Part three in the Things I Love series - My first trip to Paris.

It was May 2001. I had never been out of the country before, and I had never dreamed I'd be going to Paris! There I was, 28 years old, in college studying Interior Design, and going to one of the most amazing cities in the world for class credit!

One of my sketches. This is a detail of some of the embellishments on the columns at the Opera de Paris Garnier.
 It's actually the best thing that could have happened, going on a trip like this for class credit, because we were required to keep a written journal as well as a sketchbook journal. Last night I dug out my written journal and was amazed at how many times I thought to myself "I didn't remember that!" It brought back a lot of the magical memories. Along with the written memories I did manage to take FOURTEEN rolls worth of photographs! I laugh at many of them. I remember to this day how I felt like I had to take pictures at every turn so that I wouldn't lose the moment. What actually ended up happening is that I have many photos, but few are great. I do have a small collection, very small, worth framing and even a couple I have made into cards.

Memories come in many varied forms. I love the b&w photo on the left. That's me in the gardens of Verailles.
 I came away from that trip with a couple of stand-outs that I cherish to this day. The first is having all of my senses opened up by seeing Vincent Van Gogh's work just 12 inches from me. I cannot describe sufficiently what happened, but it was like being there with him and understanding and literally feeling his emotions through seeing the brush strokes of those paintings. Thank you Musee D'Orsay for that gift.

The second thing I cherish is my tiny painting I bought from an artist in the square in the Montmartre district. It is so fantastic to stroll through the square and witness artists at their craft. The history of this artist district and having an actual piece of it thrills me every time I look at it.
The paint was not even dry as I walk away with a piece of Paris in my hands.
Au revoir for now, but here's hoping some of the magic has rubbed off on you as well!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Things I Love - II

Part two in the Things I Love series - The before pictures of my kitchen.

I love these photos because it is really clear that I have made a lot of progress even though it feels like a snail's pace. You may remember my post showing the pretty-darn-close-to-being-done dining room pictures. I mentioned that maybe in a year I could show you the completed kitchen. That was in April! 2012!! I may be going out on a limb here, but I think I'll beat that and be able to show you pictures BEFORE April! So excited! So until then, here are three before pictures of my kitchen.
Don't you just love that side back splash of laminate? The laminate on the counter was post-formed onto the back wall as a splash and then they just added the side pieces separately.

Yes, we had two microwaves! The white one in this picture is the one that works. The one over the stove had been dead for some time.

The ceiling had just been fixed in these photos. That was the first step. The ceilings had been sagging and the central light fixture was removed in favor of the three can lights.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Things I Love!

Hi there! It's been a while since I've posted anything. Rest assured things have been busy and wonderful. The busy part is why I have not posted, but I'm going to start this new year off right and talk about things I love, not the things that just refuse to be completed (kitchen)!

My sister.

I love my sister and I believe I am her biggest fan. Not only is she an amazing mom, she's an AMAZING artist. Her preferred medium is watercolor. Not wimpy washed out watercolor. Her watercolor is bright and vibrant!! Take a look at her Etsy shop, TatianasArtStudio, those little birds are tweeting your name!!

Isn't this Chickadee super cute?! The size of this original work of art is 2 1/2" x 3 1/2". The petite size adds to the major cute-factor! 
2013 Calendar tags. Each of these could be framed little masterpieces!

She just created these calendar tags around two days ago. She has some really great inspirational ideas for their use. A little hint: the February tag would be sweet as an ornament on the neck of a wine bottle for that special someone!

I think my favorite is May. Just look at the depth she was able to create with watercolor!

So here's to my sister, and to wonderful art that speaks to you, no matter how small!

Happy New Year!